An 11-member Union Peace Working Committee delegation led by its Vice-Chairman U Aung Min held talks with a 12-member delegation of United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) including Nai Hong Sar and Dr La Ja in Chiang Mai of Thailand from 9 am to 5 pm on Wednesday, The New Light of Myanmar said today.

Both sides released a five-point joint-statement dated 20 February, 2013. According to the statement, the eleven-member Union Peace Working Committee delegation, led by its Vice-Chairman U Aung Min together with Union Ministers U Khin Yi, U Ohn Myint, and Deputy Attorney-General U Tun Tun Oo held talks United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) twelve-member political negotiation team led by Nai Hong Sar and Dr La Ja to discuss the Framework for Political Dialogue from 9.00 to 17.00 hrs on February 20, 2013 in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

During the meeting, the two delegations discussed a variety of issues in an open and friendly manner. As mentioned in the joint-statement, the two sides talked about political objectives; framework for political dialogue; timeframe for political dialogue; drafting agenda for political dialogue; venue for future political dialogue; presence and role of mediators, monitors, and observers in the meetings; six-point ethnic nationalities peace plan; and other miscellaneous issues.

Participants of first proper conference held by‘Union Peace Working Committee’ and ‘United Nationalities Federal Council’ on 20 February 2013 in Chiang Mai, Thailand. (Photo: Hla Maung Shwe)

The joint-statement also says that the two delegations discussed mechanisms to secure local and international support for humanitarian assistance, education, health, agricultural and livestock sectors during the preparatory period and political dialogue for areas where member organizations of the UNFC are located.

The two sides also talked about holding meetings between respective executive committees or technical teams. They also agreed to hold a follow-up meeting within two months.

Some more additional news informed by the Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.) were as follow.  There was a half-hour hindrance due to Union Peace Working Committee’s reluctance to cover the comprehensive topics of the discussions in the joint-statement. But, the government delegation took a softer line afterward and agreed to put detailed subject matters.

The UNFC offered Equality, Right of Self Determination and Peace as their political objectives in the meeting.

The UNFC also proposed to pick a foreign country as next host, possibly Japan. The government side counter proposed the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) in Rangoon. After finding the middle ground, the settled venue is Thailand.

After a three-day “ethnic conference” in September last year, the 6-point agreement was reached at the Ethnic Nationalities Conference held in Chiangmai. The 6 points in the agreement were to host a meeting with civil society and all ethnic armed groups; a meeting between all ethnic armed groups and government representatives monitored by the international community; referendums in each ethnic state to ratify agreements reached; a meeting with all ethnic people to talk about peace; tripartite dialogue between the government, democracy activists and ethnic people; and implementation of agreements reached within a set time-frame.

The meeting was supported by Nippon Foundation, chaired by Yohei Sasakawa, who was appointed Ambassador for the welfare of national races in Myanmar(Burma) in June 2012 by the outgoing Japanese government led by Yoshihiko Noda. On 19 February, the Shinzo Abe government made him “Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar.

Looking back into last year, there was one remarkable meeting of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) held from May 8 to 9 2012, on the Thai-Burma border.  It was attended by the UNFC central executive committee members and top leaders of the member organizations. At this meeting, serious discussion was held on Burma Army’s military offensive against the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), as the main target. The UNFC issued a statement with an ultimatum to Burma Army to stop military offensives in Kachin State by June 10, 2012 during the meeting.

 The statement said, “if the Burma Army (Government armed forces) does not stop its transgression and military offensives in Kachin State by June 10, 2012, UNFC members, who have agreed ceasefire with U Thein Sein government, have decided to review the peace process and future programs, including the preliminary ceasefire agreements reached.”

The members of the UNFC are DeKachin Independence Organization (KIO), Karen National Union (KNU), Karenni National Progressive Party ( KNPP), Chin National Front (CNF), New Mon State Party (NMSP), Shan State Progress Party  (SSPP), Pa-ao National Liberation Organization (PNLO), Palaung State Liberation Front ( PSLF), Arakan National Council (ANC), Lahu mocratic Union, Wa National Organization (WNO) and Kachin National Organization (KNO).

At the start of 2012, most members of UNFC agreed to a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government. The KNU, which fought against the Burmese government for six decades, also took the ceasefire in January, which publicizes the government’s efforts of peace promise in the country.